Recreational Fishing Licence QLD

By Tim Trollworthy

Not surprisingly, recreational fishing interest in the QLD fisheries review has hotted up over the last month. The public consultation meeting dates for the review were announced in mid-August with the first meeting in NQ starting in Rockhampton on 26 August and then finishing in Mackay around 15 September.

The Karumba folk appear special with their consultation meeting not until 15 October! Here’s hoping that one of the reasons for the delay in Karumba is for the Reviewers to get their hands wet and spend a few days on the water throwing some lures and catching a few barra!

Dave Donald rightly pointed out in his August NQ F&B article that representation of any recreational fishers on the Review Ministerial Advisory Committee, with much knowledge outside of the SE QLD, was sadly lacking, as was representative expertise from the charter fishing sector. It also must be questioned that though issues including marine parks and maritime safety are not within the terms of reference of the review, why is there not even a single government agency representative on the committee, even as an observer? The fisheries managers and scientists from Fisheries QLD that are still on the payroll must really be on the nose with the QLD Ministers’ Office, given there is not a single one of them on the Committee. This sort of exclusion is fraught with danger as it will likely be the existing fisheries managers and scientists who will be charged with implementing the recommendations of the review (at least those recommendations that are accepted by the Newman Government).

Fisheries QLD managers appear to be placed well and truly at arms’ length from the review, and when there are complaints about any aspect of the review’s implementation, they can honestly reply that they indeed had little to do with the outcomes of the review. There is little encouragement for frank and fearless advice from public servants these days – a trait that was valued by senior bureaucrats and ministers only a decade ago. With the recent and continuing public service purge in State and Commonwealth Government agencies, dedicated public servants fearing for their job security presently will do little to stick their heads above the parapets, because it will be shot off or they will be promptly shunted sideways and, at best, be left with a few sore ribs! In the lead-up to the next QLD state election, regardless of your political persuasion, recreational fishers across QLD can only heighten awareness of recreational fishing issues by repeatedly reminding their local LNP members of the unprecedented recent swing to Labor in the Stafford electorate. If you are in a Labor electorate, tell them what matters to you about recreational fishing and ask them why they did sweet FA for recreational fishing when they had the chance in Government and then query what they could do in the future if elected.

If you want to start a bit of social unrest amongst a BBQ of lubricated recreational fishers in NQ on a Saturday night (it’d be blowin’ as otherwise they’d all be out fishin’!), I can almost certainly guarantee that the topic of a recreational fishing licence in QLD will have voices raised within five minutes. QLD State Governments for the past 30 years seem to have been more fearful of uttering the words “recreational fishing licence” than today’s school P&Cs are of having a Rolf Harris themed fundraiser. In 2014, there are plenty of Queenslanders supportive of the recreational fishing licence concept… and plenty against, and each side of the equation has some valid arguments. However, given nearly every recreational fisher out there agrees that fisheries management in QLD could and should be greatly improved, I am somewhat astounded as to the strength of opposition. Recreational fishing licences are a valuable fisheries management tool that are being used successfully in other countries and Australian states, so why do those opposed to the concept generally write it off before doing any homework. If introduced responsibly, this is one of the most important matters to be considered in the current fisheries review that could lead fisheries in QLD out of the backwaters of fisheries management in Australia to be one of the leaders of the pack. The likely positive end results for you range from greatly enhanced land based infrastructure, supporting improved recreational fishing opportunities, to the basics of catching (and hopefully releasing on occasions) more and bigger fish of all our preferred target species.

For those philosophically opposed to the recreational fishing licence concept and thinking “what a load of crap”, let’s summarise a bit of the knowledge and experience from other states so that you can make up your own mind based on some pertinent information. I want to explore what other Australian states have in terms of recreational fishing licences including how much they cost, how the funds are administrated and managed and what sort of benefits are forthcoming from licences to recreational fishers.

So what Australian States or Territories presently have recreational licences? At the present time South Australia, the ACT, the Northern Territory and Queensland do not have a general recreational fishing licence. The stocked impoundment permit scheme exists in QLD for fishing 32 stocked impoundments and in the Northern Territory you are required to obtain a short-term licence for recreational fishing on waters bordering Aboriginal granted land. You do not need a recreational fishing licence to fish with a rod and line in any marine waters in Tasmania but do require a licence to recreationally fish in freshwater. In Tasmania you, however, require marine fishing licences to recreationally fish for abalone, rock lobster and scallop and also to use a variety of recreational fishing nets. A general recreational fishing licence is required in NSW, Victoria, and Western Australia. The documented costs, administration and benefits of these three state licences are those most applicable to what a QLD recreational fishing licence might look like and offer in terms of benefits, so let’s have a look at these three state licences.

The recreational fishing licences in NSW and VIC have been around for about 15 years while the recreational fishing boat licence in WA was introduced in 2010. The cost of licences varies from $6 for a couple of days for tourists, to annual licence costs of about $35, and 3 year licences up to $85. There are a range of exemptions and concessions in each state with a recreational fishing licence generally either not required or reduced in cost to those under 18 years of age, over 70, and those having seniors cards, and various pensioner concessions. The licence funds are ultimately managed by Government but recreational fishing trusts overseen by committees or Ministerial working groups, largely made up of recreational fisher representatives, determine how the funds are spent. The most recent annual revenue from recreational fishing licence I could find, including 3 year licences, was about $14 million in NSW, $6.8 million in VIC and $6 million in WA. The NSW and Victorian fisheries websites details 100’s of recreational fishing related projects funded and driven by recreational fishers, all for the direct benefit of recreational fishers. Programs funded include fishing education, improved fishing access and facilities, aquatic habitat protection and rehabilitation, improved enforcement and research on fish and recreational fishing, and stocking of impoundments, which as we know already exists in QLD. A big positive of the state’s recreational licensing programs is that fishing clubs and organisations, and often universities, councils, community groups, individuals etc., can apply for funding for recreational fishing related projects too. Since the inception of the recreational fishing license in Victoria in 2001, the Recreational Fishing Grants Program (RFGP) has funded 538 projects, worth more than $21 million throughout Victoria.

Digesting this information, even Blind Freddy can see the dollars generated and the incredible recreational fishing related projects and improvements that have arisen from the fishing licence programs. The opportunities for QLD recreational fishers to improve their lot with funding derived from recreational fishing licences is absolutely mind-blowing. A number of recreational fishing interest and representative groups including the Queensland Recreational Fishing Network (QRFN) and Sunfish now support the introduction of a recreational fishing licence in QLD, subject to a number of conditions including the critical one of management of the collected funds by a trust fund comprising largely recreational fisher representatives.

Okay, so summing up for QLD – let’s just imagine at $50 a year for say 400,000 eligible recreational fishers, including our eligible fishers from interstate. This equates to $20 million a year. With a generous $5 million for administration, can you imagine what $15 million a year could do for QLD recreational fishing? North Queensland could finally get the boat ramps and artificial reefs we have yelled out for, comprehensive scientific monitoring of all our prized fish species, accurate recreational fishing participation and catch and effort data, co-contribution with the commercial fishing industry to fund fisheries structural adjustment programs (i.e. commercial fisheries licence buybacks), fisheries habitat restoration, etc., etc., The list goes on – but most importantly, there would also be political respect and recognition of recreational fishers in QLD, because suddenly the politicians are looking at clear, documented numbers of voters who are recreational fishers.
So as part of this fisheries review you have two choices about what you will say about a recreational fishing licence for QLD:
1) Stick your head in the sand on the moral principal of not spending, just once a year, little more than the cost of a few pizzas and beers on a Friday night, with the resulting zero percent chance of there being any improvement to your and your kids’ recreational fishing experience or
2) Subject to all fees going into a recreational fishing trust fund managed by recreational fishers, support the recreational fishing licence concept loudly and take recreational fisheries management in QLD into the 21st century.

Make sure you get to a review consultation meeting and put a submission into the QLD fisheries review.
Happy trolling until next month!